Saemark suspends operations, eliminates employees as owner is investigated for tax evasion
Icelandic whitefish export company Saemark has suspended operations after its founder and owner, Sigurdur Gísli Björnsson, fell under suspicion of tax evasion.
The news site Kjarninn.is reported all of Saemark’s key employees resigned on Monday, 29 January as a result of an investigation into Björnsson triggered by his mention in the Panama Papers, a trove of leaked documents that detail the use of shell corporations, created by the Mossack Fonseca financial firm, for the purposes of tax evasion and evading international sanctions. Björnsson’s assets and bank accounts have been frozen by Icelandic tax authorities, Kjarnnin reported.
Sæmark, had more than ISK 8.8 billion (USD 87.4 million, EUR 70.4 million) in sales and profit of ISK 55 million (USD 545,800, EUR 440,000) in 2015, according to Reykjavik Media, which has extensively covered the high level of involvement the Icelandic seafood sector had with Mossack Fonseca.
Saemark was part of the conglomerate that purchased Gadus, a Belgian fish processor and distributor, from the Icelandic Group in April 2017.
According to Kjarninn, many of Saemark’s employees were rehired by Bacco Seaproducts, owned by Hjalta Halldórsson and Bjartmar Pétursson. The company, which was created in 2015 through the merger of Bacco and Seaproducts Iceland, has annual sales around ISK 5 billion (USD 49.6 million, EUR 40 million), according to the company’s website.
A press release from Halldórsson and Pétursson cited by kjarninn said Björnsson was previously a part-owner in the business, but had recently been bought out after suspicions of his potential involvement in tax evasion came to light.
“The decision to buy Sigurdur Gísla is taken to protect the company's future interests and its business relations,” the press release said, according to Kjarninn. “Sigurdur Gisli is currently not in any way connected to Bacco Seaproducts."